Liturgy

~

Measures tiptoe softly and crescendo, throb and drum, pulsating endemic through my veins and flare.  Disturbing my lazy insides, rousing the listless dust from my stiffened soul.  Stretching like vital, opening like clutter spilling out, these vibrations are ordered even though I am not, organizing my mess for mere moments.  Music is that beauty that worms through me like emotion, transported to my senses and I can hear.  I can smell it. I can feel.  I can taste it.  I can see.  I hum the notes softly.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost…

At birth my feet are stamped in ink and pressed.

Covered in an abundant robe, Grandpa holds my hand as I step next to him and profess.  He holds me in his arms under the warm bath and pulls me up, a resurrection–then whispers in my ears as my eyelashes drip and take a breath.  He records it on parchment in ink.

So each time I enter a classroom, step to a podium, rest in relationship, sit in solitude, there is liturgy.  In all this life the liturgy plays out in millions of microscopic and magnified ways: Prayer, and questions, and warm-ups, and drill, and books that are smelled, and paint that is brushed, and heads bowed in reverence, and hands that hold tight, and secrets whispered in the dark, and tears that splash onto fingers .

They twist my hair back, pin it with pearls, and cover it in white before I embrace a new name and become one with another.  A ritual, forever vow.

Water flows over the children as they are named and marked holy.

We sit to listen, kneel to pray, stand to sing.  Reciting the historic Creed with millions of voices.

Gather– around roasted meats, buttered potatoes, yeasty flaked rolls and herbed cubes of baked stuffing, wines and champagnes, cranberry sweetness and golden, peppered gravy.

Gather– to light candles and hang evergreen and kindle fires in December; we cross with ash, grow new life,  and wave branches in Hallelujah come spring. And then we live life aloud through the warm months, sharing freely and passing wine and bread around tables with laughter and prayer, summertime green and blue and sun.

And in the in between there are keys that turn into locks on thresholds, and the birthing of infants screaming into their world and swaddled in cotton, food and game and drink together with dear ones, singing Our Father to tender ears and eyes and hands,

My heart is cold and covered callous, until I recall all these things: a snapshot of my thirty five years, flashing before my eyes when I lie awake in my bed, unable to rest. All of these liturgies, all of this life, that plays itself out in motion and visibility, that is real and can be touched, that seeps deep into me and changes me and I look upward.  Falling onto my knees in warm embrace.

And do this as a remembrance, break and eat, drink this cup

Love suffers long, and is kind,

present these selves as living sacrifice, transformed in mind,

I thank God for all of you, Beloved I have you in my heart,

may our love abound more to the end,

behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us,

 Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, I AM,

as we do all these things through Him who strengthens us,

blessed are those who are poor, those who mourn, those who are pure in heart, for they shall see God,

faith is the substance of things hoped for and of things unseen,

He gives grace to the humble,

Rise up and walk.

Grace and Peace.

As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world with out end. Amen.

Beautiful, Heartache World

 

It was just a tiny fleck of a thing, burrowed into the middle of my back.  A tiny pinch and it was out.  Something so small, but it slowly and steadily altered a healthy body.

Heartache.

I speak to a colleague while we punch buttons on the copy machine. A month later she is gone from this earth in a thunderous whisper, ushered to a collection of saints as her children mourn her absence with their father, and my eldest daughter weeps beside me in the pew, tears dripping uncontrollably as I hold her.

Heartache.

A homeless man on the corner, holding a sign that pulls me to the floor.  Seeing tears and defeat in another that slashes me to pieces.

Heartache.

An old friend whose spouse has left, and the loneliness is deep.

Heartache.

Someone tells me of a middle aged woman who was handicapped, in a wheelchair with spinabifida and the mind of a child, who passed away and was no longer suffering in a crippled body, and all I could think of, washing over me like a wave, was my sister.

Heartache.

But my heart has an ache when I witness beauty and truth, too.  Those good, good moments of rest and laughter–the good life-– that burn a physical ache into the breast, never wanting them to end.

I sit in a service of liturgy, slumping in weak and weary, feeling lifted and speaking with ten thousand voices, head low in humility, taking bread from the priest and drinking in mystery.  I walk out the doors with breath radiating through me.

Heartache.

Exhaustion and release in birthing a child causes tears to purge as I witness my husband holding a bundle of cotton swaddle and vulnerable, fragile, beautiful life.

Heartache.

A thunderous roar of humanity as a leather stitched ball is gripped tightly, thrown in precision, and played.  Masses of people who do not know each other sitting side by side, celebrating together for those fleeting moments of unity.

Heartache.

Those waters that extend to the horizon and ripple at dusky twilight, the moment I fell in love with my husband on a bike ride around the peninsula island, the faces of friends surrounded by firelight and warm drink in merriment, words read on a page that cut and charge, a violin string and piano that sing and moan in austere harmony.

Heartache.

I believe that all are the finger of loving God, gently pressing until the pressure is so deep and profound all I can do is exhale, “God”, and know He is there.  I know that He has spoken in language and Word, and yet I cannot find utterances for the depth of the grace and the magnitude of mercy that is in this beautiful, beautiful, heartbreak world.

 

 

Baptism

There are days that I feel swollen with with the past.  And I can’t move past it…can’t move on until I etch it out rhythmically, even if it needles and mutilates this aging decay–bloated, rigid, and inflamed. My skin is creased now, my sprinkle of freckles grown to thousands melded together, my teeth shifted, my laugh lines permanent.  My knees pop and creak, though my muscles are strong. And I just want to dip back in for a time.  Not just nostalgia, but watered truth that has been built around my feet and I walk on continuously.  I imagine pearls of rain stamping out ruinous fire, slipping over the scorched earth in winsome melody–listen…

Gentle,

putting out that raging blaze of doubt, weakness, uncertainty.  I need to recall that prestige and splendor that even the unassuming, lowborn can feel.

~

The shoes squeeze tight with the double knot of the laces.

Crystalline white puffs floating in the eery, pre-dawn air taken into the lungs with dragging gulps that split and hurt and suffocate, but I

keep pushing

and going and

don’t stop.

In that cinder block, run-down, carpeted gymnasium with the yellow-dim lights we ran suicides, fast feet, and burpees while holding back retching,

 sweat dripping, dripping,

as I’m heaving, heaving,

hands on my smooth knees.

Plank kicks and pushups until dirt is mixed into carpet burn wounds and ground into palms and bruises are ripening to purple, clotted blood.  All at the surface, raging to be heard and spilled and seen and grabbed and covered–but I push it out in smooth exhale, filling my lungs to burst and release.  Wash.  Coach’s voice calls sharply as a whip. You feel no pain! And there can be no tears, just fear or anger and tenacity that rage down low, ready to erupt.

There are no witnesses to view this agonizing preparation, except those beside me in the bowels of this fight.

Why do I love it?

It breathes in me still.

Muscles ache and harden, grip and spasm, and sweat seeps into that shifting ball like transporting memoirs through a company of finger tips, weeping into that floor and into that game. Those faces and voices that I can remember in a second. Hips sway and legs shuffle, and feet fly. No longer is there fear, but an adrenal surge, and a thrust of light like slow motion.  You know how to do this.  These bodies moving fluid the next day across a lacquered court with tread squeak and voices call signal to

pass, and hand, toe pivot, and quads–jump, slam.

We are of baptism, of belonging and attachment and struggle.  The heart in my chest still aches for it, so I run suicides, run stairs, and sweat to remember.

This body is now keenly felt — swimming magnetic volts that pulse through my bones and yet I fight to feel that old glory, because this is a fight of a different kind.   Oddly, or perhaps ironically, the mind is clearer and tougher than in those old days when my body was quick. Coach is still in my mind, standing with a stopwatch telling us to get up, to enter the collective conflict, this battle clash. Run to struggle, and push, and heave, and gulp, and close my eyes as the rain clouds open up and envelope me in ablution.  I hover from past to present, my heart firmly fixed, trodden and warm in both.

It is a nobility, an elite reverence. To belong to more than one place, and time, and people.  Forming in these separate bodies a sloppy, disheveled gathering that is pushing,  pulling, and yelling against one another before harmonizing, adjusting to reconcile, a fluid soul of One.  It was and is a sacred admission, a sacrament of adoption. And then we all had to lay aside and take up mission in order to take those liturgies to a future, to spouse, to children, to self.

That rain like like a

-baptism-

washing over the curves of my face, those Spirit-words, let there be rain, that soothe, cool, and  bring it back unpolluted, and God saw that it was good. Because we live washed in blood and water– alive, and created anew while our feet are still firmly fixed in the rot of the earth. Someday the earth and this body will be resurrected, whole.

 God speaking and awakening in my overrun, pillaged frame, bleached within and without– these inaudible sufferings, these triumphant joys, infused together.

 

The Milking Cows

Eugene and Beatrice Carlson owned a dairy farm in Amery, Wisconson, smack dab in the middle of cheese-state America near the Minnesota border.  To our family, they were Aunt Bea and Uncle Gene, my dad’s aunt and uncle.  To the little town of Amery, they were dairy farmers on family land, passed down from generation to generation.  The ebb and flow of American farm life is sheltered in those patches of dirt and acreage; that little place in the world remains as a soft, nostalgic flush of sunset in my memory.

When I first stepped foot on this vintage form of the rustic Midwest, I was too young to realize that it was dying out with slow and tender sadness.  My own father had traveled out to the farm in the 1970’s to help his Uncle Gene and his cousins bale hay in the sweltering, summer heat.  He piled our young mother, my brother, and I into the family car, driving from Michigan to Wisconsin in the mid-80’s to pay his Aunt and Uncle a visit when I was about 4 years old.  A smattering of yellowed, curled photographs give a glimpse into another lifetime of the farming industry.  There is little I can remember except that the farm had this magical, warm haze over it.

Framed in the clutches of my memory is the old, white barn against the sky, the amber-golden sun setting in the sultry twilight, casting a blonde-wheat glow across the dirt pathways and grassy barnyard.  I squint back into my mind’s eye, trying to bring it back into focus and the recollections are probably, admittedly, mixed with E.B White’s beautiful, nostalgic description of Fern, Wilbur, and a barnyard full of animals and of an America of our parent’s and grandparent’s childhoods.

It had a sense of history, of other-timeness.  When stepping into the farmhouse or the farmyard,  a simpleness covered over that little space of the earth.  I can feel the beat down dirt pathways with my bare feet, kicking up dust clouds, and hear the cows calling to one another in the distance.  Chippy paint on the doorposts, the large open kitchen with windows that looked over the barns.  I can remember my dad’s cousin, Larry, showing me how to quietly tiptoe into the covered calve’s shed and hand-feed sweet hay to the baby that they named after me.

There are pictures of my brother and I playing inside the corn-crib.  I vaguely remember walking into the milking barn and the noise being much more of a roar than I expected, cupping my hands over my ears.  Rows of dairy cows were swinging in motion next to one another, and I recall my Uncle Gene (or was it my dad?) telling my brother and I to watch our step behind the cows.  Another memory I have of that visit is riding out into the fields in the afternoon with my dad, brother, and Uncle Gene on a tractor.  I begged my dad to let me walk back to the farmhouse so I could go the bathroom, convincing him I knew the way.  Somehow I got stuck near the pen where the cows were let out and I couldn’t find an open gate.  No cows were in sight, and I had to go badly, so I climbed through the wooden fence and trucked through the manure-filled pen in my white Osh-Kosh overalls and lace-up sneakers.  Muffling alarm, Aunt Bea about had a heart  attack when I came into the farmhouse with my legs caked in casts of manure.  I can still remember standing at the bottom of the stairs near the door as she rushed down to strip me out of my clothes.

The summer before my 8th grade year, our parents took us out to the antique farm once again.  The house was the same as ever, with the smell of sizzling bacon on the stove, buttered biscuits in the oven, aged wallpapers and shag carpets throughout. Uncle Gene took my dad and brother and I to the local Winn-Dixie for milk–he had sold his dairy cows when his sons moved on.  My dad said that Gene always understood they did not want to inherit a dying business, but even at 13 I was heartbroken to see the farm as a ghost of what it once was.  Buying milk to drink on an old dairy farm was painful irony.  Gene and Bea lived on the farm, but the barn stood empty–actually, it was as if one day someone flicked the lights off, walked away, and simply never came back. The barn still had the cow’s harnesses hanging from the ceiling, oxidizing with rust and decay.  I distinctly remember the large, industrial ceiling fan was still hooked up and covered in cobwebs.  A small alarm clock was plugged into an outlet, sitting on the rafters near the doorpost.

It is these memories that flood into me when I am 17, speeding over the wavy hills of southwest Michigan back road in the summer of 1999.  The warm, thick, summer air pulsing through my windows, and I thrust my hand out to feel it push against my fingers.  The twilight sun piercing gold and white, stepping right down from heavens onto the open cornfields and mature trees.  I can remember breathing it in, my tiny gray hatchback stick-shift another remnant of the past.  For one odd reason or another, I always feel a belonging to the past–to the places and people that brought me into being.  A life built on other lives, and other dreams, and other journeys.  It is a payment, an indebtedness, to the past that always lives within my chest and my gut that I must write about to pay it back.  My father didn’t just tell me about his childhood: he took me there.  I take my children to mine.  And they will one day take their children to the places that they belong to.

A Snow Story

The one thing that can shut a Virginian town down, or any Southern town for that matter, is a good snow.  By good snow, I mean just an inch or two.  This past Friday afternoon the snow began as faint little flurries that my middle school students were running through, screaming and waving their arms in ecstacy, at the between-class break.  At 5 pm, the grocery store shelves were out of potatoes.  Bread and milk were dwindling.  The check-out lines were each 4 carts deep. Approximately fifteen hours later on Saturday, 8 inches had fallen and the roads were pure ice.  Church services were called off 24 hours in advance, and families everywhere traipsed through the snow for sledding and snowman building adventures.

The snow of my childhood was equally enchanting.  The snow clouds of southwest Michigan, however, would start their descent in November, usually weeks before Thanksgiving.  The magical powder would sprinkle like icicle glitter, off and on, throughout the weeks of December.  It was a rare year to not have accumulated snow on Christmas Day.  I can think of only 2 times in my first 20 years of life that we did not have snow.

Snowblowers would be filled with gas and started vigorously to heave through the drifts.  By the time driveways were cleared, the mountainous piles alongside the pavement were almost as tall as I was; the pivotal foundation for igloos and snow caves.  One highly essential tip for shoveling in Michigan: shovel or snow blow all the way through the driveway into the street.  Also, do not park in the street. I repeat: avoid street parking at all costs.  Those two mistakes will cause a wall of solid ice and snow chunks to block your cars and driveways in, when the city snowplows barrel aggressively through your quiet neighborhood.  Unless, of course, you enjoy trying to pick-ax a foot or more of solid ice chunks with a dull-bladed shovel.

January and February brought blizzards that children would pray would give them relief from their academic jailhouses.  To have school off in the mitten state, the snowfall had to be unusually deep, in access of two feet in less than 12 hours.  Or, an ice storm had to rage through, covering the snow in a skating rink and turning the trees into a magical, fairy-like, winter wonderland.  Those were my favorite–trying to lightly walk on the fragile layer of ice before falling through to the powder underneath.  Another guarantee to have school cancelled was if the windchill fell below zero degrees Fahrenheit.  Any of those three requirements, in combination or isolation, was a pretty good bet for a kid in the upper Midwest.

In high school, a snow day didn’t mean we were confined to our homes to wait out the thaw.  Everyone drives on the snow and ice in Michigan.  I can still vividly recall driving the speed limit on a stretch of D Ave in Cooper Township– 55 mph– in my tiny, rusty, stick-shift, gray hatchback packed with friends, and skidding over the snow in glee.  Teenagers live for driving in the seasonal, lake-effect weather. The reason for the cancel was mostly so that children didn’t have to wait at bus stops in frigid winds.  Double layers, snow pants, parkas, gloves, hats, and scarves would be thrown into cars, Thinsulate boots laced, and snowboards packed for a day of freedom at the slopes.

If school was cancelled it meant deep, fresh powder at the Bittersweet ski lodge.  While our faces had to fight the frigid temperatures and whipping wind that left our cheeks chapped and red as we rode the lifts, the blanket of snow was pillowy, forgiving, and worth the chill. On warm days, we shucked off our coats and hats and felt the wind flutter through our longsleeve t-shirts.  When temperatures hovered near the 40s, the snow was still abundant and the cold wasn’t painful.  I could fly down the hill in just my snow pants and gloves.

All winter long we had our fill of freezing fun. Heading to the ski slope after school one day (night skiing and boarding was my favorite), hooking sleds up to fourwheelers and careening dangerously through frozen cornfields the next. One year we strung Christmas lights down the sledding hill behind our house and the church youthgroup came over for night sledding. There are major perks to living right next to a city park with a sledding hill that closes its gates to the public at dusk.

The winter is so long, and cold, and seemingly endless that one gets used to the obstacles. We’d chink out a 2 by 2inch section of visibility in our windshields and just crank up the defroster. It was not unusual to see our headmaster shoveling the roof at school to keep the melt off from leaking inside. Snow was just absolutely everywhere, for 6 months straight. One fine April weekend my friends and I headed up for a few spring days at the Lake, and by that evening we were chucking snowballs at each other and drying our clothes out by the woodstove.

I had the experience of my first real Virginia snow in 2002, the year that my husband and I moved south for college.  The whole university shut down for 3 inches.  Meaning, classes were cancelled the night before the snow fell.  This was absolutely mind-boggling and unheard of for Michigan kids who waited on pins and needles at 7:45 a.m. for a snow day when we were younger.  Mid-morning, after sleeping in and lazily gulping coffee with cream, we decided to drive up to the mall and walk around.  Maybe browse the bookstore on our day off.  That is until we arrived and found out the mall was closed, due to inclement weather.  My boss, a pharmacist, called to make sure I was still going to make it into the pharmacy that evening for my shift.  I was confused.  Why would I call into work if I wasn’t sick?

Nowadays I bundle my toddler up and he waddles out to play in the new snow with his sisters.  His favorite thing to do is scoop it up in his mitten and eat it.   Although it snowed three nights ago, the temperatures stayed below 30 all weekend, and school was cancelled–at about 4 pm yesterday.  Snowplows down here always wait to come through until the snow has already fallen, leaving it pretty near impossible to clear the slick, packed ice by that point.  In another couple of weeks, snow will fall again, clearing grocery shelves and pausing daily life for a few days at least, to the delight of students and teachers everywhere.  The local news will have what I consider an endearing and quintessential report on how to attach chains to tires.

In fact, that reminds me of my years in college, when someone asked me when Michiganders put chains on their tires for the winter.  I replied that we….didn’t.  We didn’t even own chains for our tires.  Chains were for semi-trucks and tractor trailers traveling through Alaska and the frozen Canadian tundra. You know, extreme conditions. He just looked at me kind of stunned.  But didn’t it snow, like, a lot in Michigan?  I left him with this: all the kids in Michigan do donuts in the icy parking lots all winter long, no chains in sight.

Covenant

Adam had everything and still chose his Death, just like me.  Adam destined to face evil and now I am here facing my own demons, just the same.  I choose Death, but later Life comes.  How can it be that Life erupts in a thunderous shout out of utter destruction?  I’ve spent the better part of my life contemplating this.  Sometimes I wrap myself in it gratefully like a warm flicker flame burning wax to liquid.  At other times I throw my hands up in frustration because I can’t fathom it’s enormous depths and it makes my brain ache.  But it is always there and I always return to it.

God made covenant with Abraham, a forever commitment and unalterable bond.  A blood massacre contract etching out a promise unshattering: “I will always hold your descendents in my hand, and never let them go, no matter what it takes.  And I know what it will take. My people of faith I will transform their souls and take out wall stones around their hearts and put in soft humility, understanding, and love.”

That covenant He kept until rancid end: seeking out us.  People who turned on Him in unfaithful treason.  Leaving homeland for the wasteland to find and bring back those who were left broken by war and famine.  Giving perplexing but scandalous and wild hope. Dying in monstrous cruelty, horror, and ruinous betrayal in the wasteland after promising, “No one is greater than his master”.  These people He had created for glory and life and love, who instead chose death and sadness and utterly hopeless lives, He came to erase it all away from them and wipe tears from eyes and push out lies of torment.  Burn-searing our open, torn wounds shut that spew and spill our life source of blood….He closes and cauterizes and performs sawing-amputations and then offers His own blood, and let’s His own body be wracked by weapons and evils.   His hands, covering over deep, knifed wounds into the flesh and bright red liquid pours out onto His fingers and palms, stained.  All for Covenant He made with Abraham, the image He gave to Adam: these people He gave imprint to, and purpose, and value, a place in the story.  These humans He gave life, mind and soul.

I can’t escape it or get away from it….this triumphant thumbprint signature and Covenant stained with slaughter that forever binds me.  I need to be saved from this tragic wasteland of sweat, and muck, and graves.  I need my disease amputated.  I need to heal of scars and wounds.  I need redemption because the God who saves me from myself is the God I have screamed at to let me alone, and I’ve cried out…crucify Him.  Crucify His reality, be away from me!  A slaughter of my own hands and heart.  But this is the family I am born to.  This is the family we are given inheritance from.

I am born from immigrants.  Pilgrims who sailed the choppy and salty Atlantic one hundred years ago and pushed through the crowded throng at Ellis Island in threadbare clothing.  With a foreign tongue they trekked their way to the Midwest to scratch out a living.   I come from a man who abandoned his young family after his 24 year old wife died from childbirth and then left the four children for the orphanage and his second wife with three more and a pregnant belly and a meager dime to her name in the harsh Michigan winter of 1901.  I am from orphans who battled through abandonment, the Great War, and the Depression.  I am from a Swedish grandmother grown up in a children’s home in Chicago because her mother couldn’t care for her.  I am from a Grandfather who spoke Truth in firm gentleness.  I am from those who have fought in wars and fought starvation and fought death.  I am from a father who loves family, and history, and building, and creating, and classical music.  But I am ultimately from Covenant given freely, that wipes away tears and gives me children to fill with stories, and to fill with love, and to fill with Truth.

A massacre of blood running that covered over the permeating black stains.  Even if I ignore them, they still spread, and rise.  My fingers trace these rough edges, my skin remembering that there were sinister shames and evils here once, but the blood has covered over all of them until they are smooth and faded and gone.  This clotting liquid of heritage, a where-we-came-from genealogy.

Where we came from.

This man I am married to looks at me and I know that this is Covenant, too.  We signed ink to it years ago but it runs deeper than the legal document filed away for safekeeping.  It pulses in the core of my nerves and through me after agonizing and joyous years. A reality that is as real as his hand on my back and his face pressed to mine, but it is bigger…something much bigger than me that I am intertwined with.  I chose joyously and fully to say a breathless, “Yes” to this man and yet it came to me and covered over my heart before I could chose it.  The simple fact that we met for the first time one Michigan fall when we were young fifteen is nothing of my own doing or his doing.  Hearts and minds and souls that lock together in mysterious unity?  Was it merely this thing called chance?  How can such fathomless love and covenant come from chaos? It is not compatibility or personality, but a God who speaks and moves and writes that binds us.  After happiness and carefree youth and disillusioned and awoken niavate.  I walked in Covenant and chose Death instead, but yet I am still here because my Lord came down and redeemed what was dead and decayed in this epic war.  We are somehow not walking around mindlessly in bodies but alive.  And creating.  And knowing.  Like seeds growing to stalks, to thick root and buds, slowly blooming and waiting for this Spring, this Peace, that is to come.  But first we must battle.  Not because of rolling a die in chance, but because our story was written down in crimson ink.

When we were first married, I knew I was part of this covenant of belonging and owning, but my pride surged through me like a disease and I drank down poisonous arrogance.  Prodigal taking the inheritance and inventing the self.  There is this eerie Garden Lie that comes and tries to cover over the brilliance of flame flickering.  Surely you do not believe what God has said….  We had a little candle, a glow and glimmer of light and Truth, and it caught fire because we thought we could control it and master it ourselves.  It caught quick to the walls of our little house and burned it to the ground to mere dust.  Absolute massacre.  And God tenderly builds out of ashes and breaths in life is the way that story goes.  We must die before strongholds of life and legacy and genealogy can be built.

Who am I, that I should be a part of such a story?  Of such a covenant of love?  And all I can grasp is tears at the unqualified grace of it all.  Then I write it, because it is real.  I write it because it has happened, and is happening, to me.

What are tears?  And why do we cry at both those things that are good, and those things that are bad?   My husband tells me it is because it may be the only way our bodies can express the fragile grasp of reality while we are still on this side of the veil.  Both deep sadness, and extreme joy, expressed in tears that fly from ducts and whisper down eyelashes.  A sensitivity to, an understanding of, what is Real.  To let us know that there is more than ourselves.  God’s hand touching on us.

There were years when I thought that nothing could startle us and in those years I didn’t feel the sting of tears.  Those nights the summer breeze pushed through the window, warm and heavy, and my eyes would drift while I lay in his arms.  But despite our own wills, the bubble does break….and why?  Why? I would cry out.  When neither of us want it to?  When we both cry desperately for depth, and intimacy, and understanding?  Because we carry around the antithesis to these things we desire.  Evil and Good at war within us and all around us, pouring into our eyes and into our hearts.  And I always chose to side with Evil, and God comes in and slays it’s death-grip on my throat that is choking the life out of me.  THAT is Covenant.  “I will give them a heart of flesh, and take out their heart of stone.”  Saved from this sick and hopeless wasteland of souls.

I stood in front of a mirror, warm fingertips on glass creating five small circles of fog against the cool surface, and my eyes looked at the image reflected back at myself.  What is this person?  I listen to the beauty and the agony of music and both will make me cry, and make my heart beat, and wash over me in familiar intimacy, nostalgia, and pain.  Where does such a thing as beauty come from?  And my fingers move from glass to scars that are healing and they run over the softness there and I notice for the first time that they are healed, and I am breathing, and I am seeing, and I am standing, and I am alive.

Pretty Little Lullaby

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4

Pretty little baby, baby.  Pretty little baby planted deep.

Pretty little baby grows and stretches. Pretty little baby silent, sleeps.

Pretty little mama, baby.  Pretty little joy, down low inside.

Pretty little mama’s secret, safely.  Pretty, happy mama whisper smiles.

Pretty little carried baby.  Pretty buried baby hold on tight.

Pretty little baby, baby.  Tender little lullaby in the night.

Pretty little baby, baby.  My pretty little baby, all so new.

Pretty little baby, mama. Pretty little mama, daddy too.

Pretty little mama aching, throbbing.  Pretty little baby suffers through.

Pretty little baby torn from mama, pretty beating heart and body grew.

Pretty little baby sweetly losing.  Pretty little mama sick and cries.

Pretty little baby, baby.  Tiny little baby says goodbye.

_

Pretty little baby, baby.  Soft little baby, here then gone.

Never will we rock you in our arms, love.  Pretty little baby voice withdrawn.

Pretty little mama, baby.  Pretty little mama, daddy too.

Pretty little baby, baby. Haunted tears of heartache spill for you.

_

Pretty little daughters, daughters.  Pretty little daughters, hair so long.

Pretty little baby girls they were once.  Pretty little girls still sing this song:

Jesus, tender Shepherd hear us.

Bless Thy little lambs tonight. 

In the darkness be Thou near us.

Keep us safe ’til morning light.

Pretty little daughters, daughters.  Pretty little daughters so alive.

Pretty little baby girls are growing.  Pretty little miracles that thrive.

Pretty little hearts and minds and souls that pretty little mama, daddy love.

Pretty little family that was planted, and pretty little baby up above.